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Oil! [Paperback]

by Upton Sinclair
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 18, 2007 0143112260 978-0143112266 Later Printing

There Will Be Blood wins a 2008 Golden Globes Award. Read about it here.

There Will Be Blood wins two 2008 Academy Awards. Read about it here.

Penguin Books is proud to now be the sole publisher of Oil!, the classic 1927 novel by Upton Sinclair. After writing The Jungle, his scathing indictment of the meatpacking industry, Sinclair turned his sights on the early days of the California oil industry in a highly entertaining story featuring a cavalcade of characters including senators, oil magnets, Hollywood film starlets, and a crusading evangelist.

This lively and panoramic book, which was recently cited by David Denby in the New Yorker as being Sinclair’s “most readable” novel, is now the inspiration for the Paramount Vantage major motion picture, There Will Be Blood. It is the long-awaited film from Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the most admired filmmakers working today whose previous movies, Boogie Nights and Magnolia were both multiple Academy Award nominees. The movie stars Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York, My Left Foot) and Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine).

Paramount Vantage will be releasing the film in New York and Los Angeles on December 26, 2007 and go nationwide in January. This is the same company responsible for Babel and A Mighty Heart and the current releases, Into the Wild, Margot at the Wedding, and The Kite Runner.

As wars rage on in the oil region and as anxiety over natural resources rise, the subject of this book, which celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2007, is more timely than ever.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Sinclair's 1927 novel did for California's oil industry what The Jungle did for Chicago's meat-packing factories. The plot follows the clash between an oil developer and his son. Typical of Sinclair, there are undertones here of socialism and sympathy for the common working stiff. Though the book is not out of print, this is the only paperback currently available.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A classic tale of greed and corruption”—Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

“[Oil! is] probably his second best book and certainly his most readable.”—The New Yorker

“Anderson's film is a true American saga—one that rivals Giant and Citizen Kane in our popular lore as origin stories about how we came to be the people we are… Daniel Day-Lewis is at his brilliant best as the story's Daniel Plainview, a man whose humanity diminishes as his fortunes increase.”—Variety

Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Later Printing edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112266
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
136 of 150 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generally entertaining October 16, 2002
Unlike Sinclair's best-known novel, "The Jungle," with its bleak story and gloomy characters, "Oil!" is a fast-paced, lively and colorful story. Although Sinclair uses it to preach his political views, it is nevertheless a good piece of literature and an interesting historical testimony to the era in which it was written. Another striking thing is how Sinclair's descriptions of corporate manipulations tend to mirror very recent events. Interesting also is that Sinclair uses one of the oldest cliches in American literature, the coming-of-age story, as the vehicle for this epic; at the same time, there are indications that Sinclair seems to mock this manner of story-telling - from the main character's rather silly nick-name, "Bunny" to his perennial inability to make up his mind about where he wants to go with his life, i.e. he never really 'comes of age.' Other reviewers have noted Sinclair's apparently naive promotion of socialism/communism/the Bolsheviks, which is a valid criticism, although to me it seemed more a case of the author throwing out ideas to provoke readers into thinking rather than an attempt to persuade them. In this sense, his use of the family of a wealthy California oil baron as the main protagonists is quite telling: although Sinclair does take the opportunity to highlight the hypocrisy and greed of the moneyed classes, he also makes a genuine attempt to portray them as real people rather than just grotesque caricatures. I also noticed that many of his characterizations of the working class/poor are often less than flattering. Regardless, this is a really entertaining novel, probably Sinclair's best.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rotten business August 17, 2005
By Bomojaz
When Warren G. Harding died suddenly in California in 1923, he was one of the most beloved President's ever. It wasn't long, however, before that opinion changed, so that today he is considered among the worst. The revelation after his death of the Teapot Dome scandal that occurred during his administration was paramount in destroying his reputation. And it involved oil (the naval oil reserves in Wyoming were being sold off by corrupt politicians close to Harding). Sinclair based this novel on Teapot Dome. It basically shows how a decent man and his son Bunny Ross are up against insurmountable odds in the oil business, what with corruption all around. Sinclair's solution was dramatic: for him socialism was the answer; capitalism was too corrupt. A big, brawling novel, not particularly memorable for its style; but its muscular approach and willingness to tackle important issues make it worth reading.
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65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oil!....a timely tale August 23, 2003
Anyone who wants a vivid, first-hand account of Southern California life in the 1920's will love this novel. It captures the go-go energy of the times, peppered with jazz-era slang, which perhaps was so fresh at the time this novel was written that Sinclair chose to put these terms in quotations. (Modern readers will be surprised that most of this slang is in common use today). Of course, one can't ignore the larger political, social and cultural themes that explode upon these pages. The oil boom that grips everyone in Southern California is just the tip of the iceberg. The weirder aspect is how little has changed in the past 75 years, We are still grappling with the same issues of political corruption, wage inequality, excesses of capitalism, cult of celebrity, and lest we forget, the youth and car culture. Even more disturbing are the passing references to American oil interests in the middle east. There's some laugh out loud passages; one of the most memorable concerns an Oklahoma oil man who lays on the down-home drawl to intimadate European diplomats. Hmmmm, now that sounds familiar....
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enthralling, epic piece of muckraking literature March 26, 2008
I came to "Oil!" for two reasons. One, I had recently read "The Jungle," and became enamored with Sinclair's wit and prose; two, I had watched "There Will Be Blood," and found it such a thought-provoking film that I had better read the book that inspired it. (This tactic worked recently for me, with "Blood's" ideological counterpart "No Country Old Men", which got me hooked on the writing of Cormac McCarthy.)

I hesitate to throw out a disclaimer, but I must assume that many potential readers will come to this book through the movie, so I have to say it: The book is nothing like the film (which directer Paul Thomas Anderson has stated); the movie gets its start from the first few pages of "Oil!"; which means, since there's over 500 pages left, that there's quite a bit of story yet to tell.

I say this simply as a disclaimer. By all means, buy the book and read it. Upton Sinclair was known for his Socialist sympathies ("Oil!", like "The Jungle," reads like a Socialist manifesto), but what interests me about his writing is how his prose is still poetic and witty. Yes, there are some political points that, now having experienced WWII and the Cold War, seem dated; but in 1927, Sinclair was a borderline-revolutionary, and his Socialist sympathies put him in danger. He managed to convey that fear to "Oil!", which details an oil tycoon's son, as he slips into the Socialist world and ends up fighting the industry that made his dad a success. I wouldn't say "Oil!" is as cutting-edge as "The Jungle" was, but it certainly is a social commentary/satire that cuts straight to the bone of American capitalism. Written eighty years ago, it still holds power today; if that isn't a sign of great literature, then I just don't know what is.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel but a history lesson
A good lesson in history, economics and social behavior. Not for the faint of heart or anyone who believes that the sole choice of the people runs the country. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Long and mostly a boring novel.
The Oscar-winning 'There Will Be Blood' piqued my interest in the book that inspired the movie and as the novels tend to be more interesting, I was anticipating a great read. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Christoph B.
4.0 out of 5 stars the story of oil in California and communism in America
An interesting read, strong in irony. Didn't end up where I thought, and not at all like the movie. Essentially, it is a book about the capitalist / socialist struggle in America... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Geoffrey Cooper
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting
interesting take on socio-economic differences, social change, etc. only marginally like the movie 'there will be blood', but still a decent read.
Published 4 months ago by G-Force
4.0 out of 5 stars Oil!
I haven't read this yet. I bought a copy for a penny and it is in great shape for the price and it arrived quickly. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mushi_moosh
Upton Sinclair, 1878-1968, was a prolific and controversial writer, most often thought of as a muckraker and social activist. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Schuyler T. Wallace
3.0 out of 5 stars Quality
As a consumer, you can tell that the book was used. I has some writing in the book and has some used looks. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Alanson Tobias
Published 10 months ago by Catherine S. Morrison
2.0 out of 5 stars A primer of socialist theory
Sinclair is a writer with an agenda, and his cause is the promotion of socialism. This was somewhat apparent in his most well-known novel, The Jungle, but that book also included... Read more
Published 14 months ago by gammyraye
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Slow start, gets good after first hundred pages. Deep character development, then story really gets going. This is a good read
Published 15 months ago by theCommuter
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Need some reading recommendations
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, meets your criteria.
- Central European Immigrants (in America, Chicago)
- turn of the century
- poverty, economically-lower class
- historical fictional

Please let us know what you decide to read.
Jan 16, 2009 by Mike Gilmore |  See all 2 posts
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